Ben Needham

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  • #347740
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    Ben Needham
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    A really difficult thing to rank – I was waiting for Keith’s “official” mid season ranking thread – but I’ll put my thoughts here as well.

    No ranking) Antonio Giovinazzi

    An encouraging first few races but showed his lack of experience with two crashes in China. It should be the first part of a slightly longer F1 career if cards fall his way.

    No ranking) Jenson Button

    He drove well at Monaco in Qualifying, putting the McLaren chassis to good use on a circuit where Honda’s power deficit was lessened. Stuck behind Wehrlein in the race, their collision seemed to be a mixture of frustration and rustiness. I can’t see him returning in 2018.

    No ranking) Paul di Resta

    A really impressive performance from di Resta in difficult circumstances. To qualify 7 tenths off Stroll having driven a total of 4 laps in any F1 car since 2013 was stunning. In the end, the car gave out and he couldn’t finish, but he certainly held his own.

    20) Jolyon Palmer

    The less said about Palmer in 2017 the better. While luck certainly hasn’t gone his way at times (including not being able to start at Silverstone after a promising P11), he’s also compared extremely poorly to Hulkenberg in the other Renault. Theirs has easily been the largest gulf between team-mates and I can’t see Renault holding on to him for long.

    19) Daniil Kvyat

    The paddock felt for him when Red Bull gave him a brutal demotion in 2016, but his performance this year has generally justified it. Some solid races, but all too often crashing and refusing to accept blame. The relationship with Sainz seems fairly toxic at the moment and while Kvyat is often close (sometimes faster), he seems to make more mistakes despite his extra year of experience.

    18) Lance Stroll

    Even his biggest defenders cannot deny that his first few races were truly abysmal. Well off the pace of an ageing Massa and wasting a seemingly quick Williams. He then collected a mature (if still not impressive) points finish in Canada, before following it up with an exceptional drive in Baku for a podium, as one of the only drivers not to have an incident over the weekend. Since then he’s dropped back again, but is a lot closer to Massa. I don’t see where he’s got the reputation for crashing, as I don’t actually think he does too often, but he’s still not quick enough at the moment.

    17) Stoffel Vandoorne

    Vandoorne is probably the most difficult driver on the grid to place. Up against Fernando Alonso, with an engine that is neither fast nor reliable. He’s not given a great account of himself truth be told, with Alonso often much faster and a clumsy accident in Spain, but Vandoorne has looked better and a lot closer in recent races. Perhaps McLaren know that Alonso will be overdriving the car and so asked Vandoorne to make sure the car is given the best chance of getting over the line by driving within his limits… who knows?

    16) Marcus Ericsson

    There have been rumours of Ericsson using better equipment than Wehrlein, but I can’t imagine a team deliberately denying a driver a good car. Either way, Ericsson has been far closer to Wehrlein than many people expected and sometimes quicker. It’s tricky to pinpoint standout performances like Wehrlein has had, but he was unlucky not to get points in Baku.

    15) Pascal Wehrlein

    Often running close with his team-mate, Wehrlein has managed to score points twice this year despite missing two races. He’s performed well, but will probably feel that Ericsson is running him too close for comfort. It’s difficult to know where he’ll be left next year and I’d suggest he’ll be hoping that a Force India frees up… he doesn’t seem to fit anywhere else at the moment.

    14) Felipe Massa

    He started the year quite clearly best of the rest behind the top 3 teams, but was quickly swallowed by the Force India’s and has fallen further and further back into the clutches of Stroll who was often 1.5 seconds off the pace at the beginning of the year. It seems that when the car is good, so is Massa… and when it’s not, neither is he. On occasion he’s been let down as well, particularly in Baku where an easy 2nd and maybe even a win was on the cards.

    13) Carlos Sainz

    A disappointing year so far for Sainz, who has been very inconsistent. A stunning race in Monaco and fast in Hungary, he’s also been messy in Canada, Baku and Silverstone. Whether these errors are due to frustration, over driving and just poor luck is difficult to judge, but he’ll need to iron them out to attract a top team. He’s close to becoming the longest serving Toro Rosso driver, which is testament to his skills, but will also be making him nervous. He needs some big drives in the second half of the year.

    12) Romain Grosjean

    A very inconsistent season so far from Grosjean, who has been plagued by the same brake problems he complained of last year. Many expected him to easily have the measure of Magnussen, but it’s the Dane who’s experienced higher highs so far. Grosjean has arguably done his best with the equipment he has, but could do with some show stopping performances in the second half of the year.

    11) Kevin Magnussen

    Granted a third chance in F1 this year, Magnussen is doing everything possible to prove that he deserves it. He’s raced hard and contributed good points for the team. For a while, a podium looked on in Baku, but a solid points score was the best he could get. The tide seems to swing between the Haas drivers in terms of who is on form, but arguably Magnussen has been on it more consistently.

    10) Kimi Raikkonen

    While Vettel leads the Championship, Raikkonen finds himself behind Ricciardo in a far lesser Red Bull. Sure he’s been unlucky at times, with collisions in Spain and Baku sitting firm in the memory, but he’s also been off the pace a lot. Pole at Monaco and a resurgence at Silverstone and Hungary save him from a slightly lower position.

    9) Esteban Ocon

    The Frenchman has been stunningly consistent given his youth, only missing the points once in his quick Force India. Denied a podium in Canada by his team-mate playing blocker, he scrappily returned the favour in Baku, destroying a potentially exceptional result for them. He’s been extremely close to Perez all year but only actually beaten him once when both have finished.

    8) Nico Hulkenberg

    We’ve become used to seeing the yellow cars a long way apart on the track. Hulkenberg has been a regular fixture in the points this year and 100% of Renault’s haul has come from his efforts. Questions linger about his nerve (he made a rare mistake in Baku when a podium may have been on offer) but there’s no denying that Hulkenberg would likely be a race winner in better machinery.

    7) Sergio Perez

    The Force India has been great all year and Perez has driven it brilliantly well. A smarter drive in Canada would have rewarded the team with a podium, but as it is he’s outraced Ocon in every race bar one; though it has been very close. He had a messy race in Monaco which is his only real bad event this year. Both the pink cars have been very consistent in a congested midfield.

    6) Valtteri Bottas

    After a reasonably slow start with a careless spin in China, Bottas has ended the first half with a solid shout at a title charge. Quick enough to win when the opportunity presents itself, he’s also quietly but consistently racked up podiums, only missing the champagne on three occasions; a better return than his team-mate. He’s generally been clearly the slower of the two Mercedes but this is understandable; expect a closer battle in the second half of the year.

    5) Daniel Ricciardo

    The 60pt gap between the Red Bull’s flatters Ricciardo hugely, having had the rub of the green in reliability terms. Having said that, the “smiling assassin” has been ready to pounce when a door opens and has made some stunning overtakes. His run of 5 podiums cannot totally be the result of good luck and his position ahead of Raikkonen in the WDC is well deserved. It should be an interesting battle between these team-mates for the rest of the year.

    4) Max Verstappen

    Aside from the McLaren drivers, probably the most unlucky racer on the 2017 grid. Car failures and being collected in the accidents of others while in good positions has near enough summed up Verstappen’s efforts this year. Often retiring in front of Ricciardo, his qualifying performance is also starting to match this. Comparisons further than this are difficult as they’ve only both finished 3 races (Hungary thanks to a mistake from Max). An exciting second half in prospect.

    3) Fernando Alonso

    Who knows where he’d be in a car that actually worked? Most people would suggest he’d be winning races and maybe even the Championship. He’s outclassed Vandoorne in almost every way and put his car in places it was absolutely undeserving of. The roar of the British GP crowd when we went P1 in Q1 shows how attitudes have changed towards him over the years and morphed into sympathy of his plight. Good points and Fastest Lap in Hungary are hopefully signs of a resurgence in the second half of the year.

    2) Lewis Hamilton

    A very hot and cold year so far, with poor displays in Russia and Monaco, but as usual, when he’s hot, he’s scorching. Nobody came near in Britain and Canada and he’s also had his share of poor luck with the headrest issue in Baku. The Mercedes seems to be stretching a slight gap over Ferrari, so he’ll be getting more and more confident of the title, but he’ll need to look over his shoulder to Bottas, as well as trying to overhaul Vettel.

    1) Sebastian Vettel

    He’s been consistently excellent in his Ferrari this year, almost always faster than Raikkonen and frequently ahead of or between the Mercedes cars. He’s normally first or second and that will be key if he has hopes of staying in the lead come the end of the season. His head gets a little hot sometimes, but if he can channel it and keep it in check, he should continue to grind in these results.

    #347553
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    Ben Needham
    Participant

    @mathers – I think it was around £6 on the mobile edition, which to my mind is well worth it. You can edit the drivers (names, appearance, ability, potential, Twitter handle), the teams (team name, car design and colours), the engineers (names, ability) and the rule book (refuelling, double points, points structure etc.). I think that’s it…

    Obviously it depends whether you care if you’re racing against the fictional Scuderia Rossini or Ferrari. For me, it was worth investing the £6 and an hour of my time to put in real drivers/teams from F1, F2, GP3/FE… I even added some classic teams into the lower leagues like Jordan and Minardi for my own enjoyment!

    I wouldn’t enjoy the game nearly as much without it.

    #347437
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    Ben Needham
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    Thought I’d revisit this with the news of Sauber becoming a Ferrari ‘B’ team and Raikkonen likely being retained… maybe not a “silly” a “silly season” as I’d first thought…

    Raikkonen is the cork in the bottle. If a Ferrari became available, there would be a flurry of movement in the seats below. If he stays put, then I think the second Renault then becomes the key seat.

    If they put Kubica in, then little changes… if not, then Perez, Sainz or maybe even Alonso would probably be next in line. Will Massa stay for another year?

    #347435
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    Ben Needham
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    @unicron2002 – that’s an interesting one to revisit. I think what frustrated me most re: Belgium 2008 was that the outcome of the penalty left him behind Massa and Heidfeld, both of whom had been nowhere near all race. We’d witnessed a great battle between Hamilton and Raikkonen and it had now been won by neither of them.

    The rules were (and still are) a little sketchy in terms of what is acceptable. If you gain a position by going off track, you have to give it back… which Hamilton did… briefly! He then had to make a whole new move to get back past. To be honest, I think I would have reprimanded him and issued a clarification on the rules.

    #347409
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    Ben Needham
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    I mainly sit on F1Fanatic.co.uk with a finger hovering over F5 while I should be working…

    Other than that, you can’t beat a good YouTube browse for some documentaries, old races, interviews etc.

    I’ve also bought Motorsport Manager 2 (the advert on the Daily Round Up worked well…) and the Editor so it’s now F1 Manager 2! This is taking up far more of my time than I’d care to admit…

    #345807
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    Ben Needham
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    Both of those are great to watch – really thorough knowledge of the rules with the five second penalty! Why not!?

    The one that sticks in my mind is Pastor Maldonado’s effort at Spa 2012, which was immediately overshadowed by his future Lotus team-mate wiping out half the front of the grid!

    #345744
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    Ben Needham
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    A slightly contrasting weekend for the Finn’s trying to hold on to their seats at top teams. Bottas is making it more and more difficult for Mercedes to show him the door and a few more wins this year would surely cement his position. Kimi meanwhile is now behind even Ricciardo in the Red Bull, while his team-mate leads the way by some distance.

    He’s been unlucky at times, but Ferrari will surely have to look for a new option if they lose the WCC because of Kimi’s points deficit.

    #345254
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    Ben Needham
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    I think we’ll potentially see three next year at some point in the form of Leclerc at Haas, Gasly at Toro Rosso and whoever Honda places at Sauber.

    However, there’s bound to be someone with a budget who appears from the blue.

    #345236
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    Ben Needham
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    @davidnotcoulthard… sorry, but I think it’s all starting now. Alonso has indicated that he’s agreed some plans for next year and Massa has started to lay his intentions out. Hamilton and Vettel have begun playing games with talk of retirement and ending contracts.

    Moves are often announced in late September around Monza, but have no doubts that it’s all moving in the background already.

    #344420
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    Ben Needham
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    @evilhomer – the only one I can think of is Vitantonio Liuzzi, who ended up in a Force India for a while before a quiet spell at HRT. Other than that there’s Speed, Alguersuari, Buemi, Vergne who all disappeared… the latter three all deserved better, but particularly Vergne I feel.

    Hope to see him back soon (maybe in a Williams?).

    #344354
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    Ben Needham
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    @evilhomer – some really good point. I definitely agree that Alesi underachieved but he was desperately unlucky both on track and off track. His car failed him while in leading positions so often while in the Ferrari and also in the Benetton a few times. Alesi had the measure of Berger in my opinion, and Gerhard won 10 races, so it can’t have been a lack of talent. When Alesi signed for Ferrari he also had to worm his way out of a Williams contract he had already signed… a team that went on to near enough dominate the next 5-7 years. Poor Jean…

    Regarding the recent McLaren driver changes, they really did give the youngsters a kicking didn’t they? It has to be said though, I’d personally bin off most drivers if Fernando Alonso suddenly showed an interest.

    #344352
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    Ben Needham
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    @evilhomer – I was really thinking of anyone, whether they got axed or maintained the seat. Michael Andretti is a great shout… but then he was lined up against Senna! Tricky for anyone.

    @kaiie – I remember Wendlinger as well as Frentzen being touted as another big thing… though he never got the opportunity to show it really after his Monaco crash in ’94 so perhaps we can’t count him. Frentzen only really had a Championship-worthy car in 1997 but couldn’t deliver (as Keith’s 1997 articles are showing). 1999 was stunning and after that he never had a great car.

    As for Heidfeld, he was desperately unlucky not to get the McLaren seat when Kimi did, as I felt they were a match in 2001. Heidfeld compared himself well to Alesi, Raikkonen, Massa, Villeneuve, Kubica… still underrated in my opinion.

    #343595
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    Ben Needham
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    I’m with @xtwl – this one is really bothering me!

    I feel it must be a speed record… but then there’s something about them all retiring in 1957 that must be significant!

    A tricky one @keithcollantine!

    #342445
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    Ben Needham
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    I think it’s difficult to produce a definitive list due to varying car performances, form and different team-mates. However, it’s fun to try and not too difficult to group them I feel. Personally I would do so as below:

    Tier 1
    Alonso
    Hamilton
    Vettel

    Tier 2
    Verstappen
    Ricciardo
    Bottas
    Hulkenberg
    Perez
    Sainz

    Tier 3
    Raikkonen
    Ocon
    Grosjean
    Kvyat
    Wehrlein

    Tier 4
    Magnussen
    Massa
    Ericsson
    Vandoorne

    Tier 5
    Stroll
    Palmer

    I’d also caveat this by saying that Vandoorne in particular needs more time, while Raikkonen/Massa are in decline. I’d suggest team bosses probably do a similar thing when choosing new drivers (not saying their groupings would be the same as mine!). For example, when Rosberg retired, Wolff approached Vettel and Alonso, both of whom could not be brought to contract for whatever reason, so he moved to Tier 2.

    #341894
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    Ben Needham
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    I definitely agree that Palmer’s is one of the better one’s in the field. Call me old fashioned but I struggle when drivers change their helmet a lot (that Hamilton design is one of the worst things I’ve ever seen!).

    Of the current bunch, I think my favourite is Marcus Ericsson’s – a smart design with striking national colours:

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